State of Conservation (SOC)
Yellowstone National Park (2004)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Total Amount Ap proved:0USD
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
Tourism regulation; control of wildlife infection; invasive species eradication and control
Current conservation issues
The State Party provided via letter dated 30 January 2004 a detailed updated report on the situation of Yellowstone National Park.
IUCN received the State Party’s report on Yellowstone National Park noting recent work and progress achieved in addressing key integrity issues that have been of concern to the World Heritage Committee. These include:
(a) Mining Activities: Clean up of toxic materials from past mining started in 2000 and is expected to take seven years, but post project maintenance will be funded in perpetuity. The report noted that, while the tailings (which are outside Yellowstone) have stabilised and water quality inside the park has improved, the park continues to work with relevant agencies and others to have the tailings removed and the site restored.
(b) Threats to Bison: In 2000, Yellowstone National Park, the State of Montana, US Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant and Animal Health Inspection Service co-signed a joint bison management plan to maintain wildlife populations and manage the risk of transmission of Brucella infection from bison to cattle within the state of Montana. IUCN recognised this initiative is a long-term plan that manages current risks and sets the stage for future discussions about eradication of the disease. IUCN noted this carefully crafted consensus based plan has been successfully implemented for three years and that discussions and research are currently underway, to consider ways of eventually eliminating brucellosis from wildlife in the greater Yellowstone area while maintaining wild and free ranging wildlife herds.
(c) Threats to Cutthroat Trout: The State Party reported that experts on fish species concluded that the risk of extinction of the native cutthroat trout from the introduced lake trout was real and substantial. However, no technology exists to eradicate lake trout from the lake nor treat or control the trout disease. In the near future, the best that could be hoped for was long-term suppression of lake trout through the deployment of “industrial strength gillnets”, to resolve the declining cutthroat trout population. This was implemented by the National Park Service (NPS) beginning in 1995 targeting the estimated 7,000 reproducing adult lake trout extant that year. In addition, a no limit, no live release regulation for lake trout has been actively promoted and the angler catch has represented 20 percent of the total harvest. Research continues to seek tools for combating whirling disease. The report indicates that gillnet fishing effort has increased each year and has resulted in the destruction of approximately 56,000 adult and juvenile lake trout. Catch per unit effort declined in 2002 and again in 2003, and for the first time gave biologists hope that exploitation was beginning to affect the population.
(d) Water Quality Issues:It was reported that all of the park’s fuel storage tanks have been replaced with new double walled liquid tanks or environmentally friendly propane gas tanks. It notes that the US Congress has appropriated funds to replace old sewage treatment plants and these projects are underway or completed.
(e) Road Impacts:Yellowstone has an integrated, methodical and long-term programme to improve the condition of the park’s roads and lessen unsafe conditions and unsatisfactory experiences for visitors and prevention of resource degradation. It is noted that much has been accomplished in upgrading the existing road system since 1995, it is a slow process because of the short construction season.
(f) Visitor Use Impacts:The report noted that concerns have been raised regarding winter use in the park, but the summer visitation levels are also a concern for many people. It noted that the numbers of visitors in the park, whether summer or winter, is a contentious subject with the US public. It noted that the completion of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on a new winter use management plan called for protecting visitor safety and enjoyment, air quality, wildlife and natural quiet of Yellowstone by phasing out Snowmobile use over a three year period, and replacing them with non polluting, mass transit snow coaches. It notes that the decision was challenged in a federal court. A subsequent lawsuit settlement stipulated the NPS would prepare a supplemental EIS analyzing the snowmobile ban and various alternatives to the ban. The report noted the draft EIS was released to the public in 2002 and generated over 350,000 public comments. The final EIS was released in February 2003, and a record of decision signed on 25 March 2003, which approved the new winter use plan. The NPS decision allows for continued snowmobile use under strict limitations, establishing daily use limits, requiring the use of cleaner and quieter 4-stroke engines and requiring snow mobile parties to be guided.
Analysis and Conclusion
Link to the decision
The World Heritage Committee, 1. Commending the State Party for its comprehensive report provided following the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2003 and for its continued efforts in addressing key conservation and management issues in the property, 2. Requests the State Party to continue to report on efforts to ensure that winter travel facilities respect the protection of the Park, its visitors, and its wildlife; 3. Further requests the State Party to submit by 1 February 2005 an updated report on the progress made in the conservation of the property for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.
Draft Decision:28 COM 15 B.122
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Commending the State Party for its comprehensive report provided following the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2003 and for its continued efforts in addressing key conservation and management issues in the site,
2. Requests the State Party to continue to report on Yellowstone’s snowmobile phase-out and other efforts to ensure that winter travel facilities respect the protection of the Park, its visitors, and its wildlife;
3. Further requests the State Party to submit by 1 February 2005 an updated report on the progress made in the conservation of the property for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.
Yellowstone National Park
United States of America
View inscribed site documents, nomination file, reports, decisions, ...
SOC Reports2012 2010 2008 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1989 1988
Detailed List of SOC reports
Brucella infection threat to bison population
Inscription on the Danger ListYear: 1995 -2003
Threats to the Site:
- Geothermal development and other subsurface drillings,
- Grizzli bears mortalities and habitat loss due to timber harvesting, oil and gas development, road and home building, mining,
- Lake trout invasion is a threat to indigenous cutthroat trout and other species,
- Bison and elk threatened due to proposals to try and eridacate disease from them,
- Heavy metals and acid pollution from abandoned mining tailings,
- Increased visitor use,
- Water related concerns due to a proposed New World mine.
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).